Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Disability Discrimination Case Results in $56,500 Verdict for Bipolar Employee


Bipolar Employee Prevails in Lawsuit















About a month ago, I wrote about an employee who has a disability discrimination case pending against Regions Bank.  The employee has bipolar disorder and unless a settlement is reached, there is a very good chance that this case will go to trial in the next month or so. See below discussion of  Muzyka v. Regions Bank.

Last week, news reports released a story about another bipolar employee who took his employer to court.  The employee was able to persuade the judge that his employer discriminated against him and recovered a verdict of $56,500.

Sean Reilly was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while he was in college.  Although treated for the condition, he had problems and dropped out of college.

Reilly then took a job as an assistant manager with Cottonwood Financial.  Cottonwood owns and operates pay day lending stores in a handful of states.  Reilly decided to stop taking his medication after gaining almost 100 pounds.   Afterwards, Reilly started feeling paranoid and believed that people were talking about him behind his back.  Afraid that others would spy on him, he threw out his cell phone.  Reilly eventually had a nervous breakdown.  He called in sick and his boss denied his request saying that someone needed to cover the store.  Reilly went to work and requested two weeks of leave, which also was denied.  Within a month, Cottonwood terminated Riley’s employment.

After a four day bench trial, Judge Edward F. Shea of U.S. District Court for the Eastern Washington ruled in Reilly's favor.  A bench trial is a trial before a judge without a jury.  Reilly’s attorney took a different approach because more often than not, employment law plaintiffs would rather have a jury trial.

Judge Shea found that Cottonwood’s ADA policies and practices were deficient. The judge also found that Cottonwood’s reasons for firing Reilly were a pretext – i.e., cover-up – for intentional discrimination.  Reilly’s attorney noted that this case is significant because the employer regarded and perceived him as disabled and incapable of doing his job.

Reilly, by the way, was able to return to school and earn his degree.

For questions on the Americans with Disabilities Act and other employment related matters, call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

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